Florida RNs at 3 HCA hospitals file OSHA complaints alleging unsafe working conditions

Registered nurses at three Florida hospitals owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare have filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging unsafe working conditions at their facilities, according to the union that represents them

National Nurses Organizing Committee-Florida, an affiliate of National Nurses United, filed the complaints on behalf of workers at St. Petersburg (Fla.) General Hospital, Largo (Fla.) Medical Center and Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg. 

The union contends nurses must care for more patients than is safe to ensure proper care and that there is inadequate personal protective equipment for nurses and other front-line caregivers. Other concerns cited by National Nurses United include improper isolation of COVID-19 patients or suspected COVID-19 patients; attempts to silence RNs from reporting unsafe conditions; and failure to notify nurses about possible COVID-19 exposure.

According to the union, the OSHA complaints against the three hospitals charge that the employer "has failed to inform each employee how they are to report a work-related illness due to COVID-19; has failed to provide union representatives and RN-employees access to records of COVID-19 illnesses which require recording and reporting; failed to inform RN-employees exposed to COVID-19 of its procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses; and failed to inform RN- employees exposed to COVID-19 that they have the right to report work-related injuries and illnesses."

The OSHA complaints come as Florida reported a record 132 COVID-19 deaths on July 14 and more than 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 on July 12. As of July 14, more than 4,400 people have died from COVID-19 in Florida.

HCA issued a response to the complaints, acknowledging challenges during the pandemic, including the recent surge in the number of positive cases. 

"Throughout this health crisis, our hospitals have implemented polices and planned for the long term, knowing the course of this health crisis is uncertain, and we are grateful for our caregivers and the outstanding job they have done throughout this pandemic to ensure our patients are cared for safely and compassionately," its statement says. "We continue to exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Florida Department of Health guidelines in providing personal protective equipment for our caregivers."

HCA also disputed the allegations regarding reporting information, saying "We are appropriately reporting to the Florida Department of Health all positive infections and aggressively participating in contact tracing to help ensure the safety of our caregivers, patients and our community."

As Florida is being hit hard by the pandemic, the for-profit hospital operator expressed disappointment overall about the union's allegations and said it continues to work with employees, local and state government officials and the local healthcare community to keep hospitals open and safe. HCA said employees are also providing feedback and suggestions for improving safety and the patient and worker experience in its hospitals. 


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